On Dec. 21, Congress passed a last-minute continuing resolution to fund the government through Jan. 19, 2018. This resolution also finally reauthorized federal matching funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program after their expiration on Sept. 30. The extension will allow the program to continue functioning through March. After that, CHIP will once again face a funding crisis, imperiling a program that provides nine million U.S. children with low-cost health insurance and covers over 300,000 pregnant women.
The willingness to use CHIP as a bargaining tactic highlight the misplaced priorities of the current congressional leadership.
During the last months of argument over CHIP funding, House Republicans put forward a plan for five more years of funding. However, they proposed paying for the extension by diverting money from other public health programs, which Democrats rejected. This robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach and the willingness to use CHIP as a bargaining tactic highlight the misplaced priorities of the current congressional leadership and majority.
In October, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., writing to Congress on behalf of the U.S. bishops to urge support for CHIP, reminded them that the program has “garnered widespread support from both parties and from an overwhelming majority of the nation’s governors and state legislatures.” Sadly, it has been pulled into the ongoing brinkmanship that has displaced real legislative work. Families deserve the security of dependable health insurance for their children, and legislators should be cooperating to provide it, not waiting to see who will blink first.
The guarantee of ongoing funding for this important program deserves an up-or-down vote, not one tied to other more controversial changes in health care spending. In the meantime, the media, which has too often waited for legislative crises to draw its attention, should keep asking legislators between now and March about whether they are willing to continue risking CHIP’s failure. And voters should demand that their representatives stop running out the clock and start cooperating on real priorities.